I am the HIV activist who keeps preaching that, with the great medical strides we have made, no person should die of HIV-related complications. That is why I am walking the talk. And it will be a 50-year-long walk. I have set my sights on the year 2065. That is when, God willing and meds working well, I will hit a century.
I have already reached the halfway mark: 50, which some sisters dread more than cellulite.
Don’t laugh. I am not high. Neither have my antiretrovirals loosened nuts inside my bald head like they sometimes do. My doctor can confirm this: Asunta Wagura is mens sana in corpore sano. That’s Latin for, “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. And that’s a maxim I keep repeating every time infections or fears besiege me.
My one hundredth birthday will be a big event. I need to plan well and early. Of course, a number of matters must remain constant. Like yours truly remaining healthy, in mind and body.
I am sending out invitations because I want my guests to tell me whether they accept or decline the invitation. I am strict on RSVP. Let me know: will you honour the invitation or take a rain check? Etiquette in most Western cultures requires that if you receive a formal, written invitation, you should reply promptly, possibly the same day.
I want to effectively budget for this centennial party. I need to know the number of guests. I also need to book the venue well in advance and have it decorated appropriately.
Twenty-eight years ago, I was told I had six months to live. Look at me now. Fifteen-or-so years ago, my house was virtually empty, save for Peter and the two adopted girls, Ann and Fridah. But now my house is full. Just the way I dreamt it should be. It is full of screams, laughter, clutter and fights.
Now I’m dreaming bigger: celebrating my hundredth birthday.
All guests will be equal. There will be no “high” or “ordinary” tables. All my guests will served equally. And the servers will be the in-laws. However, I have confirmed one table will be missing: the table for doubting Thomases.
Going public with a sensitive subject has its drawbacks. When I shared that I wanted another baby, the feedback made me have second thoughts …
“This is the craziest thing to happen this century.”
“A HIV-positive woman shouldn’t even think of having a baby.”
“You’re in your fourties, past your reproductive phase, leader and role model … you shouldn’t even be thinking about this.”
“Wake up; you’re dreaming.”
Well, I chased the dream. Still, I must admit that when I dream, there are strange forces that push me to the edge. And when these forces push, I shove. If, for instance, I have a dream of owning a good car, I will go for it. I will scrimp, save and, if need be, get a loan. get in debt. I don’t let doubt, my past or critics’ voices bully me into giving up on a dream.
In my long years of being an advocate, which is a job that means I am in the firing line, I have learnt that I can either let criticism make me recoil, or I can defy the odds.
Planning to live
There is a saying to the effect that when we make plans, God laughs. But what gives me hope is God’s Word, in which says that He has good plans for me, plans for good and not for evil. Besides, there is a verse that says that life or death is on one’s lips. I choose life. A long productive life.
I am only practising what I preach. When counselling people living with HIV to live positively, I tell them that they are what they think and say. I tell them to make plans, to write down their plans, to live their plans one day at a time.
I will also move towards this goal one year at a time. If a cure finds me on the way, thank God. If it does not, thank God. I will work with whatever health intervention is available. I will factor in my doctor in this equation, because his knowledge and input can be the difference between life and death.
I am not Superwoman. My loved ones, support group, prayer partners and even perfect strangers will also help me reach this goal.
Twenty sixty-five, here I come!